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close up photo of water lily flowerIn these days of social distancing and self-quarantine, it’s a good time to shore each other up — virtually, of course — and offer the human nutrients of encouragement and inspiration. We can’t see each other in person, but we can still check in. So, how are you?

For those of you who are sick at home with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), our prayers are with you. For the rest of us, hearing about states shutting down and shoppers fighting over toilet paper, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed right now. 

I could tell you not to get stressed, but that doesn’t even seem reasonable. What I will offer is this suggestion: Gather all the facts you can from reputable sources. Do all your due diligence, then take your mind off everything virulent and volatile. That includes viruses, of course, but also people who are trying to amp you up, make you anxious, or otherwise just get on your nerves.

This is a good time to protect all that is precious to you, and remember: The order to shelter in place extends to your soul. Do all the things you can to stay sheltered in a place of peace. Take your mind off the catastrophe as a whole and focus on one thing at a time.

Remind yourself that you’re doing everything you can at this moment. You’re safe at home. Everything is okay where you are. Let it be okay. Don’t go back and check the stats every ten minutes. How many cases are there in my town today? What’s the latest terrifying news? 

Step away from the stress. Sit down and decompress. All will be well and life will go on. We’ll get through this together, and before you know it, the “new normal” will just be “normal” again. 

Sorry for the absence.  Deep into meeting a work deadline while trying to skirt pandemic-monium.  No, I’m not making light.  Well, not entirely.  My coping mechanisms include laughter. And that’s not a bad thing for getting through things right now.

This image popped up this morning and reminded me of Lori’s prayer.

Me? I’m ready to quarentine.  Afraid?  Not so much but I’m a busy introvert who is trying to meet a work deadline.  I work from home.  If I had to stay home?  I could get a lot done.  And I’ve got a shelf full of library books and three blankets that I’m knitting or crocheting – different techniques for different projects.

But I have no troubles understanding why people are so afraid.  We don’t handle the unknown especially well.  We are a society who wants absolute and complete control which we call freedom.

That’s always struck me as a touch ironic.  Freedom to me is a cottonwood fluff on the breeze.  It is a flowing stream.  It is quiet and ease and rest.  Funny enough, these are also the places that I go to spend time with God.

And really isn’t that what we should be doing in times like these?  Spending time with God?

The future is unknown and unknowable.  It is out of our control.  But that was the situation three months ago.

Like the say in Hitchhiker’s Guide – Don’t panic.

Instead, have courage.  God is with us always.

Have faith.  God is with us always.

Have hope.  God is with us.

Always.

–SueBE

 

Every month, a huge truck pulls up in front of my neighbor’s house to supply her with oil to heat her house. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that simple to get your own energy percolating again? Just pull up to a tank and restore your zhoosh. Perhaps you could even order it online for same-day delivery.

I’ve had some ups and downs recently: I was under the weather and over-extended (physically, financially, and emotionally). Some days I felt underappreciated. Other times, overwrought. I felt off-balance and on-edge.

It seemed as if I was running in place, and prayed to find a map to help me move forward.

As I woke up this morning, I still felt this way, but as I got out of bed, I inadvertently played an old video of my cat (God rest) as he sat in his spot on the bed, calmly grooming and just basically existing. He was happy just to be with me. Normally, that video would make me sad, since he’s no longer here, but today, it was a reminder of pawsitive things (sorry, had to): love, comfort, sitting in stillness, a peaceful home, warmth, a furry friend you can count on, blessings. All the things that comprise zhoosh restoration are gifts from God that you may take for granted. Focus on the things that lift you up today, and you’ll find that they bring you back to life.

December 21 — that’s the day winter officially begins. Yet, somehow (and I can’t be the only one!), I’m already tired of it. If it’s not winter yet, then why is it so cold? Why are we beset with snow and wind and slush and gray skies? Calendars and almanacs may be useful, but they can’t tell us how we feel. Only we know that. And in this Advent, this time of waiting, I am feeling ready for something new. Something wonderful. (P.S. A thank-you to my good friend Marilyn Rausch for the term “hyacinth of the soul”!)

In this winter by another name,
this still-point of seasons,
in trees stripped clean,
in a sky black with grackles,
ground as hard as haters’ hearts:

I am waiting for a hyacinth of the soul:
something fragrant and unexpected.

Something’s coming
with a gift already purchased,
bought in blood, so long ago.
I have only to hold it in my hands
to know it. It feels like the sun,
wobbling weak as a new calf,
standing. Sniffing springtime.
May the light find us ready
to stand awhile and bask.

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles with the theme of scientists being taken aback by fascinating finds. First, they were “stunned” by the discovery of a black hole with a mass seventy times larger than the sun.  Next, they were “shocked” when they found a 2000-year-old mass gravesite of Germanic warriors in Poland, complete with “mystery urns.”  Then, they were “fascinated” by the research that shows dangerous bacteria communicate to avoid antibiotics.

(That last one makes me think of sinister cells in tiny leather jackets and tattoos, roaming around the body causing trouble. “Cheese it, pals, here comes the fuzz. We’ll meet back at the gall bladder later. Let’s am-scray!”)

I’ve also noticed that “breaking the internet” is a thing lately. For instance, Jennifer Aniston joined Instagram and broke the internet. Oh dear. I hope they can fix it by later today, cuz I’m planning to curate some more cat pictures for my humble bloggie.

Article writers use dramatic tags to garner more views, but the truth is that not everything is over-the-top and out-of-control. Hyperbole and hysterics only add stress to our lives, but the world still turns like clockwork every day. Seasons change on schedule. Most of the time, life is low-key.

It’s easy to forget the small moments of grace that don’t scream for attention, like the fact that the new mailman, Bob, brought the mail to my door this afternoon in the wake of recent snowy weather. “I’ll check in if I see you haven’t had a chance to get to the mailbox,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

Sage advice from a kind soul. All of those small moments of grace over the course of a lifetime add up to a good life, well-lived.

don't give up. You are not alone, you matter signage on metal fence

A setback is a set-up for a comeback!

It’s always darkest before the dawn!

You’ve got this! 

These are some of my favorite “pleasant platitudes,” although I prefer to call it “staying on message” even when times get tough. Sure, it may seem as if I went to the Cliché Carousel and bought some annoying affirmations in bulk today, but these corny sayings have a kernel of truth. 😉

These are the kinds of things I’d say to the people who are in my heart, but for whatever reason, not often actually in my life. They go “radio silent” or “incommunicado.” Now, mind you, I know they’ve got their reasons. I might not be able to relate to their situation, but it doesn’t make their experience any less valid.

If friends or relatives are facing challenges that they can’t put into words, it’s hard not to think they’re mad at you or (perhaps worse) don’t care about you. Still, you’ve got to consider yourself first and shore up your own soul instead of worrying about them.

Take care of you. Until they share what’s going on, encourage yourself. Keep the faith. Count your blessings. Go to your happy place.

Then when they do finally open up, you’re centered and still. That’s when you can be fully present for them. Till then, focus on the positive and stay true to you. Godspeed, dear hearts!

An old Yiddish proverb crossed my mind as I read the headlines this morning: “We plan, God laughs.” Every article seemed to be about unexpected events that forced a change of plans.

One was about the fact that coal mines are shutting down across West Virginia, forcing many to find another way to earn a living. A non-profit came up with a novel idea: training former coal miners to become beekeepers. They’ll be provided with equipment, advice, and bees for free or at a low cost. 

Then I read about Ricky Kidd, a man who’d been wrongfully convicted and had spent twenty years in prison. When he was released over the summer, he was reunited with the shelter dog he’d trained while incarcerated. “I felt like that kept the human part of me alive,” he said. “Seven years later I get to catch up with Howie…We have a happy ending.” Kidd is now sharing his story and advocating for others who have been wrongfully convicted.

Change is an inevitable part of life, and it might even end up being a good thing. 

I had to find a way to start over with knitting when I realized I could no longer use needles due to my visual impairment. When I realized I could work on the round-loom instead, it was a chance to “re-loop.” 🧶 Now I can relax while creating comfy scarves for the winter.

So, when a situation changes, re-group.

Re-purpose the challenge into a project.

Re-invent yourself by setting a new goal.

Don’t look back at what you’ve lost; look ahead and ask, “What’s next?”

CALLEJA (DIARIO DE NAVARRA)

Abel Mutai, an athlete on the verge of winning a race, misjudged where the finish line was and stopped running too early. Another runner, Ivan Fernandez Anaya, could have run past Mutai and won the race; instead, he helped Mutai cross the finish line and came in second.

“He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn’t have closed.” said Fernandez Anaya. The photo of him helping Mutai across the finish line went viral, garnering praise from all over the world. When asked for a comment, however, his coach voiced his disappointment. “The gesture has made him a better person, but not a better athlete,” Martin Fiz told El Pais. “He has wasted an occasion. Winning always makes you more of an athlete. You have to go out to win.”

In another race, two Olympic runners collided, and, as the race went on, they helped each other carry on to the finish line. Neither runner won the official race, but later, both were given a special commendation for sportsmanship.

Some things are more important than a trophy. Maybe we should change the term, “human race” to “human family.” Life’s not a competition. Don’t listen to the naysayers, even if it’s your own coach. We’re all on the same team. 

This morning I woke up and was so tired, I slid right back into that pocket between sleep and wakefulness. That seems to be the place where I hear sage advice from someone.  (God? My own psyche? Relatives who have passed on?) 

And this time, I heard these words:

Expect the best like a dinner guest and set it a place at the table.

Then someone (my mother? A teacher?) said to me:

What are you punishing yourself for?

And I realized it was both a mildly exasperated, head-shaking statement, as well as existential question.  

So I had to mull it over. What am I punishing myself for? What do any of us give ourselves angst over?

  • Choices you made when you had no choice.
  • Stopgap measures that turned into persistent problems.
  • Mistakes that led to doing penance in perpetuity.

Many of us feel we’re in that pocket in between what we’d envisioned life would be and life as it is actually lived. We may end up making peace with where we are and making do with what we have. But maybe “expecting the best” is the mindset that precedes its arrival. Or perhaps it’s the clarion call your blessings need to hear. 

What if they’re flying overhead right now, waiting for you to tell them where to land? If changing your mind meant changing your life, we’d all set that extra place at the table. That way, when “the best” comes knocking, it will already feel right at home.

Okay. So you say you want it all? Noted.🗹 

First, you’re going to have to start with “nothing” as a baseline. See, that way, you have a frame of reference. 

Next you’re going to have “some,” to help you learn how to manage “it all” when it arrives. If you don’t learn from this phase, it’s okay. We’ll helpfully let you start over at “nothing” again to get those More Muscles in shape.

Very few ever get to “it all” because even the ones who seem to have “it all” are deeply in debt, sick from their secrets and alone in a crowd. 

The “all” you’re really seeking isn’t a big pile of money, a perfectly-coiffed and curated persona on Instagram and a happily-ever-after with a stranger you met by swiping right on a dating app.

Actually, the ache for “it all” embedded within you is something else. Just as you’ve got a heartbeat, that’s your soulbeat. It’s:

  • Being who you are, no matter what room you walk into.
  • Learning every day that you don’t have all the answers, but that the questions themselves are sometimes the point.
  • Working toward a goal to engage all your faculties and your faith at the same time.
  • Using your own experience to know that people causing pain in your life are in pain themselves and greeting that grief with grace.
  • Getting to know and love yourself just as you would a “soulmate” so that you don’t end up with a “cellmate,” both locked into the self-defeating notion that you’ve failed to complete each other.

Life really is simpler than you make it out to be. 

  • Find your forte. Do that with all your heart. 
  • Find your community. Connect and show you care. 
  • Be yourself. If you meet a partner on the same page, be yourselves together.
  • Do your best. 
  • Take care of yourself. 
  • Be kind. 

Whatever you can’t figure out, turn it over to me in prayer. You may come to realize that in some ways, you already do have “it all.”

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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